Esther Duflo and Impact over Ideology

“Part of me always wanted to do something useful in the world. It came from my mother. She is a pediatrician and she was active in a small NGO for the child victims of war.”

--Esther Duflo, Economics Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Every year, over 300,000 deaths are attributable to climate change related issues. Even worse, the infiltration of pollutants and other negative, third-order effects of consumerism have impacted every facet of our ecosystem. From various levels of degradation in our air quality to temperature-related deaths or illnesses, every person on the planet is a shareholder in the success of our environment’s health and, certainly, we are all liable for various failures.

Given the loss of human life related directly to climate change, it is important to challenge the presumption that climate change is a future problem. Rather, it is a present problem. Therefore, an examination surrounding climate change and the way we live must not be confined to the academic realm. Instead, a radical approach on the issue that incorporates morality, philosophy, and pragmatism must establish a framework to provide a logical basis of why sustainable thinking ought to be promoted. Ideally, this framework shift will further efforts to preserve the sanctity of life of our precious planet and the lives of our fellow humans.

Sadly, climate change is far from easy to solve and is exacerbated by other, pressing social needs. Around the world, problems heavily impede the development of countries south of the equator. A lack of clean water, a distrust of preventative medicines in urban and rural settings, and inadequate supply chains that unevenly distribute ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in our societies are only a few issues that draw attention away from environmental economic inclusion. Furthermore, this, of course, does not include the religious conflicts and sectarian violent outbreaks that further entangle implementation of policy solutions devised by academic, public policy professionals, and subject matter experts.

Moving forward, the best approach to tackling complex crises is to favor impact over ideology through framing environmental and economic successes as contextual rather than generalizable. Whether grand universal theories exist to unite our understanding is not the intended purpose of this book -- instead, ideally, our readers will further an understanding of how to shift their personal habits towards sustainable development and internalize the importance of environmental economics. Hopefully, ideas will align, naturally, with solutions.

WEEKLY ROUND-UP: Han Solo, IPPR, and the Wall

Over the past week, three big headlines dominated the news.

  1. Han Solo gives a talk to the World Government Summit. The 76 year old actor, Harrison Ford, spoke out about how the degradation of our environment is the greatest moral crisis of our generation. The summit was held in Dubai, UAE this year. Leader from over 150 participating countries with an estimated 4,000 attendees joined Harrison Ford in discussions.

  2. The Progressive Think Tank known as the “Institute for Public Policy Research” released an environmental report detailing the breakdown of potential catastrophes that may affect society if global temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius. The report highlighted how humans have historically perpetuated the notion to disregard anthropocentric climate change. Further, the report also argues humans are reaching an inflection point that has dangerous implications for all members of society.

  3. President Trump is on course to declare a state of emergency, as reported by senior White House officials. The state of emergency surrounds the construction of the wall that would run along the southern border and between the U.S. — Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California — and Mexico. The state of emergency is based out of the Trump Administration’s claim that the failure to have a strong southern border is a national security issue.

An Honest Review Of The American Conservation Coalition: Part 1

Conservatism and Environmentalism Are NOT Mutually Exclusive

Disappointingly, most conservative Republicans do not believe in anthropocentric climate change.  According to a previous article titled “The Conservative Case for Conservation”, only 40% of conservative Republicans believed in climate change and only 26% believed that climate change is linked to human activity.

Despite credible evidence from climate scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), there is a partisan gap when we think, discuss, and read about our ecosystem. This does not mean that Republicans are not proponents of environmental stewardship, rather the statistics gathered by Yale University in 2018 indicate conservative Republicans are misinformed about their own environmental history.

What is Conservative Environmental History?

In the 20th century, Republicans laud Reagan like Democrats laud Kennedy.  With the exception of William F. Buckley Jr., President Reagan reached the zenith of influence among conservatives, yet most cannot recall his environmental stance. With just a cursory Google Search it appears the last article about Reagan’s environmental stance is by the Weekly Standard in 2013 -- approximately 6 years ago.

Despite various embattlements of the conservative Reagan Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, the IPCC was developed as a compromise between two competing beliefs.  The ideological locking of horns, if you will, is an old engagement between realism and liberalism that still influences military intervention debates in the halls of the Capitol and within the illustrious Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Simply put, Reagan’s Administration bolstered U.S. scientists to key positions on the IPCC.  In exchange for participating in the United Nations, U.S. scientists were able to influence foreign powers, communal legislative bodies, and other intergovernmental organizations.  Further, meteorological data was shared amongst those foreign powers along with best practices, honest diplomacy, and the occasional drink. As a result, scientific bodies were able to provide legislators with assessments of “socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change and options for adapting to it.”  Clearly, this is a boon to policymakers and instrumental for the 90 member Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives.

How Does This Environmental History Relate to Contemporary Conservatives?

Typically, media outlet headlines are dominated by mainstream policy debates ranging from social security solvency to who committed which crime to the role of government in anything.  Rarely, environmental issues of today are discussed with importance. Instead, disdain despite the rich history rooted in traditionalism is commonplace.  Even worse than not having the conversation is to provide non-sequitur analysis that can be characterized as, perhaps, purposefully deceitful rhetoric.  It’s even suggestive that the conservative-demographic base cannot, simply, understand science. A degrading insinuation, at a minimum, or a forthright insult.

However, the American Conservation Coalition, or ACC, is resurrecting an archaic idea in a new century.  Last year, a band of young, Republican environmentalists founded this organization that promotes environmental stewardship by directing attention on inefficiencies in our government-regulated, market-based economy.  While the ACC -- not to be confused with AOC -- appears to be a fantastic organization and desires to make an impact, Counter Current would like to provide a few helpful recommendations to make the ACC platform more effective in the second half of this two-part series.  Before exploring recommendations, Counter Current had the great privilege of corresponding with one of their staff writers, David Saul Acosta.

Meet David Saul Acosta.

David, a first generation Cuban-American, is just one story of many woven into the fabric of our nation’s, great, American Dream.  As a Miami native, he witnessed first-hand the influences of Latin America, the Caribbean, and “the importance of a strong America on the world stage.”

“I have been fortunate of the opportunities I have received throughout my life, and [have] never [forgotten] the hardships and sacrifices my family has had to order to open the doors of opportunity and be better able to pursue my own American Dream.”

Not only was he exceedingly keen on the struggles of his grandparents and parents (and discernibly grateful), but it was visible he realized that the United States was truly a land of opportunity like no other.  David’s parents sacrificed to ensure he had access to a quality education. As a proud graduate of private catholic schools -- during his formidable years in primary, middle, and high school -- he excelled academically.  Recently, David graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Miami. Now, he is pursuing a Master’s Degree from Harvard University in International Relations. Needless to say, he is impressive and will either further U.S. Foreign Policy to some degree or stay engaged with Miami’s ‘Young Republicans’.

“I believe the Republican Party must re-embrace the environmental stewardship legacy of its past, and champion free market solutions and sound government policy to meet the climate challenges of today, bolster its appeal to younger Americans who care deeply about climate change and expect action from their leaders in public office.”

Furthermore, as a staff writer for the American Conservation Coalition, David enjoys highlighting both “innovative programs and technologies -- particularly those of which come from private businesses and free market forces -- have had on the fight against climate change and environmental degradation.”  In addition, he finds it fascinating that “America’s business are stepping up to meet the challenges of our time”.

“As a lifelong resident of Florida, I have had the great fortune of living in state with great natural wonders and beauty. From our beaches to the rivers of grass in the Everglades, Florida is home to some of the most ecological significant environments in all of North America. As a child, I have always understood this distinction — with educators and class lessons in primary school highlighting the importance of environmental stewardship and conservation for the benefit of Florida’s environment, and its protection for future generations.”

Understandably, if the organization is filled with well-intended intellectuals, like David Saul Acosta, then the future of the ACC seems promising.

This is the first part of a 2-part series on the American Conservation Coalition. In the second half, Counter Current will critique, praise, and provide recommendations that, hopefully, will be received with optimism.

Polar Society

If you love Polar Bears, you may want to check out the Polar Society.

Polar Society is an apparel company founded by Geovana Flores and Joanne Wong. When they first started, in 2008, the two conducted research and discovered that the polar bear was listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) specifically because of the projected effects of climate change on their habitat. As you may recall in our earlier articles, there is significant precedent that climate change is real and environmental stewardship is a necessity.

“There needs to be a reduction of gas emissions in order to prevent the declines in polar bear population.”

—Geovana Flores & Joanne Wong of the Polar Society

Polar Society’s apparel brand is “not only fashion forward[,] but provides a means to improve the current natural habitat for polar bears and their preservation.” With every purchase, Polar Society donates a part of their profit or proceeds to organizations that “support polar bear conversation and habitat preservation.” Clearly, both Geovana Flores and Joanne Wong are inspired about how to be activists in a consumer-based economy. They are inspired, simply, by both preservation of the polar bears as climate change worsens and are concerned about the future generation.

Success for the duo is a work in progress. Each time the company is able to donate part of their profits to Polar Bears International is something they consider a success. In January 2019, the company donated $300 to the cause! This is fantastic! Further, the love and positive optimism they have received from customers or with their brand ambassadors is what helps them keep their focus, according to the owners.

Parting Thoughts

When asked what are a few things that everyone should know, they said… eat less meat, use energy efficient light bulbs, turn off electric devices when you’re not using them, walk, ride bicycles or take public transportation whenever possible. Not only are there immense benefits to you health, but these simple ideas have benefits psychologically too! So, be sure to get out there and save the world with one small decision at a time!

If you want to learn more, check out their website or follow them on Instagram at @polarsociety!

To Coffee Lovers

Do you love coffee?

Well, guess what? You are not alone! There’s over a 50% chance that you, as an American, wake up and gulp down at least one cup of coffee each day. Actually, it’s closer to 1.6 cups of coffee, but that’s not the important part. You and 150 million of your coffee drinking companions should expect a great deal of change to your daily ritual. Recently, a study published in Science Advances Magazine determined that over 60% of coffee species are at risk of extinction! Additionally, just over 10% of the 124 species examined were classified as “data deficient”. The term “data deficient” means that the species are not used enough in the coffee production supply chain to determine whether the strands are healthy. Or, in other words, less than 30% of all known coffee species are not at risk to extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s various standards.

Did you know that — worldwide — coffee plants are 3 times more at risk of extinction than any other type of plants? Want to know why? Well, even if we ignore the effects of climate change in the study about Coffea Arabica (the most commonly traded coffee species) we would have to discuss deforestation. Also, as a fun fact, Coffea Arabica amounts to 60% of the worlds coffee trade!

These coffee species moved from the category of Least Concern (LC) to Endangered (EN) almost overnight!

This suggests that if we were able to acquire similar levels of data for all other coffee species similar harrowing inquires may be found. However, climate change is not the only human-induced threat to coffee!

Deforestation plays a significant role in threatening our coffee.

Deforestation is another example of a perverse incentive. When we consider the quality of wood from coffee trees, generally, people in the area desire to use it for timber. This practice coupled with other types of habit-loss inducing practices — raising livestock or other agricultural activities — lead to the continual decline of safe and protected forested areas for coffee to grow.

While it may be hard to give up coffee, it is possible to ensure the health and prosperity of coffee species around the world. In order to make an impact on an individual level, there are two things we must do. Firstly, we have to enhance research capabilities and continue studies by Science Advances Magazine and other organizations just like them. These researches allow us to focus on derivatives in species state of health and give us a higher fidelity look into the problem at hand. Secondly, we must work to ensure more protection of the forested ecosystem that coffee inhabits occurs. This is meant to slow down the continual rate of decline. More time to tackle the external consequences of drinking coffee, also will allow us to help solve the world’s greatest problem. Climate change.

Save our coffee species so we can stay awake in the mornings! If you like what we write, follow us on Twitter @CountCurrent or Instagram @thecountercurrent! Or find us on Facebook!

Katie Nation: Vegan Nation

Be Vegan AND a Foodie!

Why can’t vegan food satisfy those midnight-snack, craving, taste buds?

Meet Katie Nation, a 26 year old professional, who knows how to cook up a storm in the kitchen! Not only does she love good food, but she seeks to share her vegan recipes with her hungry followers. Her hungry followers include those who just begun or haven’t even started their journey with veganism to those who are fully immersed vegans with years of experience. Her content is great which is why she has amassed a strong follower.

“The future is vegan.”

When Counter Current interviewed Katie, she was adamant that veganism is not a cultural shift that will happen over night, but rather a slow transition. However, that transition has started. While most know that processed meats like bacon are not healthy, other types of meat may shock you. Like plain chicken breast? Katie can still recall how shocked she was when she learned more about the meat and dairy industry. Not only were these products not environmentally sustainable, but they were not as healthy as most people had assumed. Despite her past blindness, Katie is convinced that people are starting to catch on as veganism becomes less of a fringe issue and more mainstream. Unfortunately, the gradualness of this ‘enlightenment’ is too slow for her. She wants to help others realize how preconceived notions may not always be correct, especially when it comes to the meat and dairy industries.

“Since the meat and dairy industry does such a good job of masking the true ugliness of it, people don’t see it’s a very cruel industry. Profit rules all — profit to these companies is more important than your health, your safety, the environment, and the lives of innocent animals.”

After Katie made this claim, we did some research and we found that there is truth to her statement. Meat and dairy are linked to various chronic diseases such as inflammation, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and type-two diabetes. In particular, milk has been linked with the onset of dementia, conducted by one study. Further, animal agriculture is the leading cause for climate change, and this needs to be slowed down!

If the apparent negatives outweigh the positives, why do we continue to consume meat and dairy in such large volumes?

Habit patterns. We, as a society, have established cultural norms and whenever norms are established it is harder to shift away from them — even if they are wrong. For example, a majority of people in the 1700s may express slavery is wrong despite partaking in the system. Similarly, whenever a person makes a choice the person must consider the outcomes. Katie is helping us realize the consequences of our actions through sharing vegan recipes. Despite juggling her work in marketing and going back to school to become a nutritionist, she still finds time to live her values. This is a practice we encourage. To her, a successful life and life for her company is one dedicated to those values.

“There is no trophy at the end of the finish line, so you have to focus on what feeds your soul and keeps you going.”

This year she plans to set up a blog website to further share these ideas across the world. So, go support Vegan Nation to help you make eco-conscious choices and eat yummy food! Thanks so much and it was fantastic to have you!

“With just a little knowledge we can make a world of difference…”

Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement of veganism, rather an informational interview meant to expose the reader to a different perspective.

Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi’s running.

For the 2020 Presidential Race, we are planning to profile the environmental political positions of each US candidate. We do not plan on providing any type of endorsements because we want our readers to be informed, but ultimately make decisions that best serve them. Our analysis will include a summary of (1) who they are, (2) what environmental issues they have voted for, (3) any sponsored legislation, and (4) any notable environmental endorsements. The length of each article on a given candidate will be correlated to the available content in each person’s background.

Who is Tulsi Gabbard?

From Bernie Sander’s supporters to Justice Democrats, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) is a rising star among Progressives and, generally, well-liked in Hawaii. As a state legislator, a combat veteran, and an environmental non-profit founder, she has done a lot in just 37 years. She announced her candidacy on 11 January 2019 and, subsequently, was featured on the Van Jones Show.

Although she is in a different tier than Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris when it comes to being a house-hold name, her vibrant persona could sway the younger base of the Democratic party to vote for her. It is our assumption, Gabbard will be influenced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or receive some type of endorsement from his camp, given her decision to resign as Vice Chair of the Democrat National Committee in the 2016 election cycle. This high-profile exodus raised her profile to greater national prominence

Voting Record On The Environment

From 2013 to 2017, Rep. Gabbard (HI-02) has voted in favor of pro-environmental policies 165 times in her last three terms. The data is provided from the League Of Conservation Voters and is only recent until 2017. Further, in only 6 instances did Representative Tulsi Gabbard vote against any type of bill when she was serving in the House. The following legislation pieces were voted as “Nay” votes by Rep. Gabbard in 2017: (1) Attacking Wilderness in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, (2) Undermining Flood Insurance Reform, and (3) Flood Insurance Reform. We encourage our readers to read the text of the legislation and not merely the titles.

Environmental Legislation Sponsored by Tulsi Gabbard

On her campaign website, her team listed both H.R. 4811 (114th) and H.Res. 540 (114th) as her two greatest accomplishments in the environmental field. Rep. Gabbard was either a sponsor or a co-sponsor of the legislation. For reference, H.R. 4811 is now referred as the “Coral Reef Sustainability Through Innovation Act of 2016” and is an amendment to the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000. Essentially, the amendment allows for awards to be given out to stimulate innovation and references the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 on various methodology to best protect the coral reefs.

As a Representative from Hawaii, the legislation she sponsored coincides with the tourism industry. Tourism is the largest attraction in the Hawaii economy and this bill would be closer to an incremental change that is built off of previous house resolutions. This does not mean that this action is inconsistent with Progressive ideology (a political thought that generally favors broad-sweeping legislation like the New Deal under FDR), but not necessarily monumental change.

Who Has Endorsed Representative Tulsi Gabbard?

The three greatest endorsements that Rep. Gabbard (HI-02) has received are from the following organizations: the (1) Sierra Club, the (2) League of Conservation Voters, and the (3) Ocean Champions.

We hoped you liked our informational analysis of Rep. Gabbard. As the campaign progresses, please check back often to learn more about Rep. Gabbard and other candidates!

National Security

The Department of Defense is the 5th largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world.

“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.” 

James Mattis, Former Secretary of Defense

In 2010, as commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, James Mattis signed the Joint Operating Environment, which lists climate change as one of the security threats the military expects to confront in the next 25 years. Today, rising sea levels, increased maritime access to the Arctic, and desertification in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa are of specific concern to Former Secretary of Defense. Further, the introduction of the report stated that our troops and defense strategists will “find ourselves caught off guard by changes in the political, economic, technological, strategic, and operational environments,” as battlefields evolve.

Climate change has been a growing concern in both National Security circles and at the Pentagon. Former Secretary James Mattis’s written statements only highlight the concerns stemming from the Department of Defense. When he addressed the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2017, he advocated for the environment through expressing his grave concerns as it pertained to U.S. interests and the Pentagon’s assets abroad. In the two previous administrations — under President Obama and President Bush — climate change was considered a pressing threat. From intelligence reports in the National Intelligence Assessment under the Bush Administration to the Obama Administration’s inclusion of climate change in the National Security Strategy, various organizations like the Center for Climate and Security have taken issue with the Paris Accord pivot.

“Ensure that climate change-related impacts are fully considered in the development of national security doctrine, policy, and plans.”

President Obama Executive Orders to over 12 agencies, including the Department of Defense.

In September 2016, a memo titled “Climate Change and National Security” developed an action plan to create a Climate and National Security Working Group. However, the results of such effort are unclear at the moment. Since 2007, President Bush signed a law requiring the Pentagon use 25% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025. In 2012, the Department of Defense committed to this plan that has proved largely beneficial. To elaborate, a switch from diesel generators to a solar grid decreases the need to run dangerous convoys from base to base.

During Former Secretary Mattis’s Confirmation Hearings, he addressed these very issues. He stated that climate change requires a broad and holistic government response. Upon his confirmation, he stated to the Senate, that he would ensure the Department of Defense would be prepared to address climate change effects in their threat assessments, resources, and readiness reports. The Secretary even discussed the need to cut dependence on fossil fuels and explore renewable energy wherever it made sense for the Armed Forces. As a reminder, this is a career Marine who has no stake in the energy business, only a stake in protecting the lives of his Marines, and making them more capable weapon systems.

However, disagreements arose with President Trump administration’s Budget Request. Although Fiscal Year 2019’s budget has not fully been completed, large cuts will likely occur at various agencies like the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA was slashed by 20% in the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request. This encompasses the sub-departments that are expected to be slashed like the Oceanic & Atmospheric Research by 37%, the National Weather Service by 6%, and the National Environmental Satellite Data, & Information Service by 26%.

Renewable resources and the ability to monitor or analyze the extreme conditions resulting from climate change are vitally important for National Security. Droughts, famines, desertification, and decreasing risk to our Armed Service members by anticipating the changes of war, will solidify the hard power of the United States in this next century.

The United Nations

Guess what? Climate change is real.

Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.

Page 1 of the IPCC’s 2014 “Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Summary for Policymakers”

Under the Reagan Administration in the 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State Department wanted to create a new, international norm. Both the EPA and State desired to limit the amount of greenhouse gases a country could produce.

Although the relationship between President Reagan and the EPA is a tortured history, they ultimately came to an understanding and lobbied for a new international governmental organization to be established in the United Nations.

In 1988, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that allowed for the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This body was born out of the ‘Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases’ and is, currently, advised by both the International Council of Scientific Unions, the United Nations Environmental Programme, and the World Meteorological Organization.

Ever since 1988, the IPCC has kept seasonal, monthly, and annual tabs on how the world is changing. If you go to NASA’s website, they reference a report from the “Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Summary for Policymakers”. In this report is the quote below.

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen

Page 1 of the IPCC’s 2014 “Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Summary for Policymakers”

Regardless of political affiliation, the severity is undeniable. This isn’t just some online blogger preaching to a choir of eco-lovers, but rather hard data confirmation from NASA scientists. NASA freakin’ scientists. The damage can range from melting ice caps to higher sea levels and the displacement of millions of people.

We have a problem and we only have one world. So let’s fix it!